Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Adventures in Caulk: Road Construction-Part 1

The gaming group has managed to reserve a big room for Thanksgiving weekend so we are committed to putting on a game in the "grand manner".  Leading candidate is Quatre Bra as part of our 1815-2015 campaign using Carnage and Glory II.   I was running through what we would need for the battle.... new terrain mat... check.... trees for Bossu Woods... check... buildings... check... roads--no check.  We've been using a lot of brown felt and it was time for an upgrade for this big game.  

Thus begins our Adventure in Caulk (hilarious, I know), which I've had on the back burner for some time.  My first foray in to terrain making was disastrous.  Attempted to work with some open cell Styrofoam and hated it.  This project, however, was near stupid proof.  All credit goes to for the ideas and directions goes to these two bloggers: Lloydian Aspects and Maiwand Day.

The scene of battle.  Plastic garbage bag on the kitchen table made clean up take ~30 seconds.

Step 1: Purchase acrylic caulk.  I got this at Home Depot for under $4.50.  There wasn't a lot of selection for none silicone based caulking in brown (see the linked guides re: no silicone, apparently it doesn't take paint well).  There was some white acrylic caulking for under $2.00 for the same sized tubes.  The cheapest caulk gun was another $3.00.

Step 2: Backing material.  I purchased a yard of thick cotton cloth from Joann's Fabrics for ~$11.  If you see Maiwand Day posts he doesn't use a backing, which probably works too. 

Step 3:  Cut out cotton in desired shapes.  Leave a little extra room so you have a place to hold on the fabric, while you apply the caulking (or ignore this and just embrace the mess).

Step 4: Deploy Caulking.  Apply popsicle stick and spread it around fairly evenly.  Wait 20 minutes. The caulking is very sticky and kind of annoying when newly applied.  Apply sand, grit, or gravel for texture as desired.

Step 5: Texture with available popsickle stick, stylus, or nearby vaguely pointed object. Work the grit into the caulk so its not just sitting on top of it.  As discussed on Lloydian Aspects there is definitely a sweet spot, where the caulk is pliable but less sticky. A couple of pieces were allowed to sit to long and texturing them was more difficult, and the sand did not get worked in very well.

Step 6: Let dry... a long time.  24 hours and it seemed to finally dry out.  The caulk was fairly well set after 4 hours or so. 

Step 7: Dark Brown Wash.  Dry brush a few highlights in.

Prussian IR 12 (Calpe) marching to Frischermont from Warve on a muddy track.
Conclusion: In reviewing, my first prototype might be a bit over textured... more Russia 1941 than any given dusty dirt road.   There will likely be future iterations improving on the texturing.  I have not decided yet if I want to flock the edges.  The cotton/caulking can be cut easily with scissors if you want to get rid of extra bits of fabric or road.

Overall, I'm very happy with the result. The one tube made ~7 feet of road and the whole test run cost me less than $25.  Even if the prototype is a bit over textured, its an easy future fix.  The end product is durable and flexible.   The roads will conform to whatever you put them on, can be bent in half while not losing their shape, and can be stepped without damaging the texturing (besides maybe a bit of sand/flock). The whole process was easy, required very little planning and did not overtax my limited crafting skills.  Overall, I foresee future Adventures in Caulk, likely to including more roads and rivers/streams.  If my Dux Britannarium project ever gets out from behind by Waterloo ambitions I think a paved Roman Road or dykes for the big siege battles could be a lot of fun. 


  1. Malefric, just read a comment you left on my blog almost a year ago, thanking me for providing a little guidance for your own "Adventures in Caulk" terrain making, which you posted above. Very sorry it took me so long to spot your comment (I should add some Blogger widget that alerts me immediately when that happens!) and want to thank you for kindly mentioning my Maiwand Day blog in your post! I actually just finished up almost 20' of caulk roads, which were one of the last major terrain elements for a big project I've been working on for several years, so seeing your own caulk roads tonight was perfect timing for me, and will hopefully inspire me to do a new post on my blog dedicated to my own caulk road-making, albeit in an arid Afghan color-scheme. Thanks again and keep up the analog miniature gaming!

    1. I had some abortive and failed attempts at terrain making early on in my wargaming career that turned me off to that aspect of the hobby. I was very happy to get a much better result with the caulk projects based on your blog.
      I just noticed you were in SoCal. We just missed each other as I have migrated back north again.